J.D. Martinez of the Houston Astros celebrates a first inning home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks with teammate Jason Bourgeois at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
On September 29, 1963, the Houston Colt 45s tried an experiment. It was the last day of the season; they had lost 96 games and they were playing the 110-loss Mets.
Houston started a nearly all-kids lineup that day; the "oldest" and most-experienced player that day was third baseman Bob Aspromonte, who was 25. But Houston also started five teenagers and two others who were 20 and 21 years old -- and blasted the Mets 13-4.
The 2011 Astros have turned to the future after dealing away veterans Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn and Jeff Keppinger at the trading deadline. So Monday night in Phoenix, they did something akin to their 1963 predecessors -- they started five rookies. We learned this fun fact about Monday's Houston lineup via tweet from Mike Chmielewski:
Astros lineup tonight - Barmes has 656 career hits, everyone else has 238 combined.
In fact, Houston starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez had more career hits (45) entering the game than five of the position players (J.B. Shuck, 2; Jimmy Paredes, 4; J.D. Martinez, 7; Jose Altuve, 20; and Carlos Corporan, 19).
And what did this collection of kids and journeymen (Jason Bourgeois and Clint Barmes completed the aggregation), who entered the game 40 games under .500, do? Why, of course, they blasted the Diamondbacks -- who came into Monday night half a game out of first place in the NL West -- 9-1. Martinez had three hits, including a three-run homer, and scored three runs in the rout. The Astros pounded out 16 hits; in addition to Martinez's home run, Altuve, Corporan and Matt Downs (a relative oldster in the Houston lineup at age 27) doubled.
And this should give Astros fans some hope for the future. Among the youngsters Houston started on that long-ago September day were 19-year-olds Rusty Staub and Joe Morgan and Jim Wynn, who was all of 21. 22-year-old catcher John Bateman put up a solid if unspectacular career. The player who had the best game that day was 18-year-old John Paciorek, who went 3-for-3 with three RBI and four runs scored. If the name sounds familiar, he's the older brother of Tom Paciorek, who played in the major leagues for 18 seasons and later was a longtime broadcaster for the White Sox, Tigers, Braves and Nationals. John Paciorek had back surgery in 1964 and never played in the major leagues again; he holds the record for most career at-bats (three) with a 1.000 batting average.
That's a feat none of the current crop of Astros rookies can match, but perhaps some of them might have careers that will approach the accomplishments of Wynn, Staub and Morgan, who combined for 19 All-Star appearances. Martinez, who hit .342/.407/.551 in 1118 minor league at-bats, looks like a good power prospect; Altuve, just 21, is solid defensively at second base and had both power and speed in the minors; Shuck (who has a great baseball name) was a walking machine this season in Triple-A (.401 OBP).
So while the Astros are down this year and possibly on their way to a 110-loss season, their win over Arizona, as did the 1963 Houston teenager victory over the Mets, may signal hope for their future.